Why You Should Frontload Your Work on LSAT Games

It seems counterintuitive to time-strapped LSAT takers, but you can vastly improve your performance on the games section by slowing down at the beginning of each game.

Rather than race into the questions with little understanding of the LSAT game, frontload your work. Take the time to make key deductions and truly understand the game up front, and you will then be able to attack the questions with greater speed and accuracy. In fact, you will actually do your LSAT games faster overall if you get into the habit of taking your time at the beginning.

What should you spend this time doing? First, carefully read the background of the LSAT game and draw a main sketch, where you will put those things you are sure of. For example, if the game involves ranking six math students according to their GPA, then draw six empty slots and jot down the six students you will put into the slots. If you are told that Aaron, Bob, and Cathy are ordering ice cream and they each choose vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate, you can draw an empty chart with three columns labeled A, B, and C (into which you will put the flavors S, V, or C, during the course of the game).

Once you have a main sketch, carefully read and translate each clue. Be careful; if you misunderstand even one clue, it can doom your performance on the entire LSAT game. Whenever possible, try to incorporate the clue directly into your sketch. The main sketch should only contain things you are 100% sure of- not guesswork. For example, if the clue states that Bob orders chocolate, you can put a “c” in the Bob column.

If you can’t incorporate a clue into your sketch, write a shorthand translation off to the side. Make your translations as visual as possible. For example, if the clue states that “Jacks GPA ranks one spot lower than Sally’s GPA,” you could translate this as JS, enclosed in a box. The box indicates that they are a block- S will go immediately after J. If a clue states that “Pat’s GPA ranks higher than Jack’s,” you could translate this as J…P. The ellipsis indicates that P comes sometime after J, but we don’t know exactly how far. They could be right next to each other, or they could be far apart.

When translating LSAT game clues, try to think of negative clues in a positive way. If the clue tells you what can’t be true, ask yourself what could be true. If the clue says that “Cathy does not order the chocolate ice cream,” it is less useful to put “Not C” in Cathy’s column than it would be to turn the clue into a positive. She doesn’t order chocolate, so what DOES she order? Vanilla or Strawberry. So you could translate this clue by putting “V/S” in Cathy’s column, to indicate that Cathy must order either Vanilla or Strawberry.

Once you have translated all of the clues, spend sufficient time to make key deductions about the LSAT game. Do NOT immediately jump from the clues to the questions. Sometimes even one small deduction can make an LSAT game immeasurably simpler. Focus on the entities you know the most about, and try to deduce things that MUST be true.

Armed with a good sketch that includes deductions, you will be able to traverse the questions much faster than you otherwise could have. However, be careful: some LSAT games simply have few or no deductions to be made. You will waste valuable time if you sit there staring blankly at your sketch trying to find deductions that aren’t there. You must develop an internal alarm that buzzes loudly at you when it is time to stop searching for deductions and move on to the questions. This is an essential skill that can only be developed through practice.

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